Jackie Urkoski, NSA Executive Director
As I knelt there on a beautiful summer day taking part in one of our community planting projects, I couldn’t help but realize the uniqueness and the significance of what I was witnessing. And I wasn’t thinking about the many native plants we were finding special spots for during this community landscaping project, or the gorgeous lilac firmly set in the middle of the barren parking lot to transform it into a shady, fragrant and beautiful space, but of the unique situation that presents itself when two strangers begin gardening together.
It is true that gardening can touch a soul. On this particular day, as I found myself completely relaxed, taking in the smell and feel of fresh soil and digging another hole, I overheard the conversation between two other volunteers a few feet away from me. One was an older man, a proud master gardener, the other a young woman about 16 years old. He was there because this had become a hobby for him, a pastime he loves. She was there with her high school class who volunteered to help under the instruction of their teacher. I couldn’t help but listen to the exchange. It ranged from stories about his grandkids to her latest homework assignment. They jabbered on like they were old friends. They dug holes and strategically placed plants, and then dug some more, all accompanied with get-to-know-you conversation. At the end of the project, with dirty gloves on, they exchanged a hug and a “Nice to meet you.”
This is part of the beauty of NSA that people seldom talk about. We quietly march across the state doing incredible green work, planting thousands of trees, instilling hundreds of sustainable landscape projects, all while educating, connecting and inspiring thousands of people. We revisit these places and check on the trees and landscapes and are able to see the growth and track the success rates, but what we can’t measure are the other impacts that naturally come from bringing a group of people together to garden. These impacts—new friendships; giving inspiration and confidence to a community group that will ultimately result in even more new projects to green their community; or the simplicity of seeing two generations connect, even just for one morning planting—are just as important. These continuous greening efforts, and the resulting relationships, are immeasurable. And priceless. Gardening brings people together, and through our community efforts, NSA brings people together. Our dirty gardening gloves force us to turn away from our ringing phones and beeping text messages. It forces us to breathe in the fresh air and notice the beauty around us, not only in the landscape but in our neighbors; beauty that so often goes missed or unnoticed in this busy world.
So while I can share with you notable statistics like the following:
- We support nearly 100 arboretum sites in over 50 communities across the state. This means we provide technical assistance, funding and encouragement to communities and individuals to continue the landscape work they are doing.
- NSA has provided funding, plants and technical assistance for more than 1,300 landscape enhancement projects in 300 different towns, with a total value of nearly $20 million. Much of the funding awarded to NSA to do this work is through grants from the Nebraska Environmental Trust.
- More than 6,000 Nebraskans have attended over 200 workshops provided by NSA and its partners. Most of those participants are actively engaged in implementing additional projects in their communities.
To me, the really remarkable thing is that we bring people together to create sustainable landscapes for others to enjoy, and for generations to come. Our mission is to foster sustainable landscapes for healthy homes and communities. However, a subset of this mission should be: bringing people together in the present, to build for the future.
I want to take a moment to thank you for being a part of this simplicity; this state of beauty. To those who are members and have never experienced one of our community plantings, I encourage you to join us in 2015 for what is sure to be one of our busiest and most active years yet. More trees, more shade, more beauty and more communities impacted.
Our work at NSA is growing, and as with any growth, there is an increase in need.
We need your support to continue growing our impacts. NSA completely relies on grants and goodwill donations from people like you to continue growing our programs. Help us to continue creating healthy homes and communities through sustainable landscapes. Help us to continue bringing generations together while improving the green infrastructure of our towns. Help us to continue teaching and inspiring others, especially our younger friends, on the importance of improving the environment around us.
Please graciously consider making a tax-deductible gift to NSA by clicking here. We appreciate and gratefully accept any size of gift. As Aeschylus once said: